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Question DetailsAsked on 9/16/2014

Permit on room addition after it was built?

I know this has been asked by a lot of people on these forums, but here's the situation:
I built a room addition to the house along with my dad and brother about 8 years ago, and it's well built... We are not sure if we actually meet all the current codes, but we would like to get the room permitted in order to add solar to the house. (If we go through solar now, there will be inspections, and they will see the room addition and most likely cite the unpermitted room.)
I know this opens a huge can of worms, and potentially risking having to take it down, BUT I was hoping that I could hire an architect that knows San Jose's codes, and maybe some inspectors as well to get this room permitted properly. We are willing to correct any issues that are not up to code.
We have photographic documentation of everything from the foundation to completion of project, so we know it inside and out, but we need someone to help us translate that into required forms for permit application

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I presume you are in a permit-required area - but check the code first, to be sure your area is not exempted from permitting or inspection for the type of improvements you did - some areas are, and some limit it to multi-family houses. You might luck out.

San Jose, Ca has had a well-known reputation for being real sticklers for code compliance and permitting, so I would say you need a LOCAL architecture firm with resident full design and inspection capability in all field (structural, foundations, electrical, HVAC, etc) to honcho this through for you.

I have never done this in San Jose, but in other tough enforcement jurisdictions the cases I have seen typically cost about $2-5000 in architecture/engineering/inspections/fines, PLUS the cost of any remediation necessary to bring up to code. In some cases that remediation was only a few hundred plus another few hundred to do minor drywall replacement and painting after opening up a wall for inspection, but I have been involved in a couple of similar cases on both coasts where the building department was obviously being vindictive and required removal of ALL drywall on ceilings and walls and all insulation to allow full visual inspection of ALL construction. I was also involved in consulting on one case where a teardown was eventually required, but that involved substantial structural violations as well as planning and zoning violations that the owner would not comply with, so the city condemned it and mandated a teardown.

When talking with the architect, be sure to address if independent inspection is allowed in your area - many jurisdictions allow an architect/civil engineer to do the inspection and certify to code compliance, and that certification along with as-built plans is submitted with an application for a retroactive building permit, and you just pay the permit fee plus any retroactive permit penalty (commonly from 1-3 times the original permit fee) and walk away without a city inspector ever stepping foot on the property. Costs more up-front to get the architect/engineer certification, but likely to be FAR safer for you in terms of rework requiredas it removes the possibility of vindicative inspector behavior, and commonly architects/engineers are satisfied with a niminal number of inspection holes or just removing cover plates plus a number of 1/2" holes that they feed a fiber optic camera through to inspect in-wall utilities and walls and floors and such.

One final option is to check with realtor friend (or one you bought house from) on whether code compliance and permitting is checked in your area when a house is sold - one option might be to scotch the solar idea to avoid being inspected by the city in the first place, especially since adding the solar is more of a philosophy thing than something that is really going to save you a lot of money, especially in the short run.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD

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